Letterboxing - a Devon original

Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art and problem solving.

The modern origins of began in 1854 on Dartmoor when hikers began leaving a letter or postcard inside a small box left along the trail. The letter or card was generally addressed to the person who originally left it. The next person coming along the trail would collect it up and then post it on at the next post box. Most times they would replace the first letter with another one addressed to themselves.

The original boxes on Dartmoor were often remote and well hidden, so it could take a long time from when the letter was deposited and when it was forwarded on. people today are not as patient, so in more recent times the letterboxes are more accessible.

If you’d like to have a go on a smaller scale and in easier surroundings then I suggest that you visit Escot here in East Devon. You collect a set of clues and a log sheet at the entrance and work your way around the grounds, stamping your sheet as you go.

You will find the boxes hidden in various locations. Some are easy to find, others are much more difficult although the clues will help you along the way. When you find the letterbox you will see there’s a small stamp and an inkpad. Simply use these to mark your sheet. Keep going until you’ve found them all.

There are a number of different types of letterboxes, however it’s beyond the scope of this article to cover them all. Particularly in the US, letterboxes have developed new forms — there are now many different kinds of letterboxes, each with some specific distinction.

One type is called Virtuals and is an online hunt, almost a scavenger hunt of sorts through different websites, collecting answers to questions posted as the clues to the box. If you’d like to have a go then try this free to enter Internet scavenger hunt for the chance to win a free draw prize.

If you’d prefer to try the real thing on Dartmoor then I recommend that you read the following books for more information:

Anne Swinscow has written several popular guide books on Dartmoor letterboxing

The Letterboxers Companion by Randy Hall was published in 2003 and focuses on letterboxing in North America.

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